Commissioners address LWV

t Officials praise group’s support of good government.

All three Kitsap County commissioners addressed the local chapter of the League of Women Voters on Wednesday, providing an update of county government while lauding the LWV for its ability to keep voters informed.

“We encounter people all the time who have a strong focus on a single issue,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “You are unique, because you support the concept of good government.”

Bauer modified the common analogy, that the government/people relationship approximated the interaction between a corporation and a board of directors.

Instead, he feels it resembles a co-op, where the elected board is responsible to the entire membership and everyone has a voice in the decision-making process.

Analogies aside, corporations, co-ops are most concerned with the bottom line. Bauer carried this theme to this audience, saying that county government is not made up of spendthrifts.

As an illustration, the initiative to limit property taxes passed in 2002, and a $14 million surplus postponed the budget crisis until last year.

Even under these conditions the county balanced the budget.

“We have stopped the hemorrhage, but we have not solved the problem,” he said. “We can always be more efficient. We need to have a dialog with the public and stay connected with them. The issue is not just balancing the budget, but determining what the long-time solutions will be.”

One long-term situation will be created by the eventual incorporation of Silverdale, which Bauer said will cost the county half of its sales tax revenue.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who is leaving office in order to run for state Legislature, said she hopes to maximize her remaining time as commissioner.

Her most important issues are parks and the Bethel corridor, which she said has changed in character through its development.

“Wetlands are an issue in that area and that won’t change,” she said. “For that reason, some of the larger big-box stores will need to cut down their imprint. Wal-Mart has already decided to downsize its development project.”

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said the character of the board has changed in the 16 months of his term.

“We’ve made a lot of progress as a board from a year ago,” he said. “At that point NASCAR had just left and there was a lot of strife and conflict. The board is now more collaborative than it has been for some time.”

Brown said one concrete improvement is switching regular meetings to the evening, which has vastly increased public participation.

“We want to reach out and get people involved,” he said. “And we don’t need to have all the great ideas. We only need to recognize a great idea when we see one, and have the means to get it done.”

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